NRL great Willie Mason has weighed in on the contract saga of Panthers star Jarome Luai warning the five-eighth against a move away from Penrith. In an attempt to lock down the premiership winner Panthers offered Luai an improved offer of $850,000 for two seasons, an additional $50,000 a year on what he was previously told was the maximum they could offer him due to salary cap restraints.
On the Levels Network podcast on Thursday, Mason implored Luai to take the offer despite the fact he could likely command north of $1million elsewhere. "He's winning, he's in a great place and I am glad they (Panthers) are tabling something like this and not disrespecting him and I think personally third-party deals might get him over a million," Mason said.
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Mason said while he understands the temptation of receiving a more lucrative offer elsewhere, he believes it isn't worth trading a winning side for a losing one. "If he is leaving some of his mates and they're not winning, it's not a good feeling," Mason said.
"It ain't a good feeling when you go from a winning culture to winning five or six games a year when you're used to dominating every other game. Because there won't be more (premierships), there won't be any of the carry-on like he does now, you can't do it if you're not winning."
If Luai doesn't accept Penrith's contract extension he can test the open market from November 1. In what appeared to be a telling move that he may be on the way out, last week Luai announced he was signing with management company Black Money Enterprises - who manage the likes of Latrell Michell and Cody Walker. The crafty five-eighth split with management company SFX in July and cannot sign with a new agent for three months under a “90-day termination clause”, however, SFX offered to waive the clause if Luai allows the Panthers to negotiate directly with him and his family.
While the Panthers are lapping up their third-straight premiership the reality that some of their stars may move on is ever-present. Penrith don't have much space left in their salary cap after recently extending fullback Dylan Edward's contract, offering him $850,000 a year for four years as well as having numerous players on big-money deals, including Nathan Cleary (who earns around $1.3 million per year), James Fisher-Harris ($950,000) and Liam Martin ($750,000).
Mark Geyer says Luai would be mad not to accept Penrith's offer
Speaking on Triple M last week, Panthers legend Mark Geyer says if he was in Luai's position he would take the offer on the table and stay at the foot of the mountain. “Deep down, you’d be mad not to take the money... I’d stay because that feeling of winning every week and being a part of that, it’s contagious," he said. "When you’re losing and on a lot of money, it doesn’t make you feel good.”
“He’s won three competitions with Penrith, you look at some of the other players who have left Penrith of the last few seasons, only someone like (Kurt) Capewell at the Broncos has seen success,” Geyer said. "Sometimes money doesn’t buy happiness — and competitions do. He’s won three in a row, why not make it four?”
Luai is currently recovering from a shoulder injury that ruled him out of Samoa's Pacific Test series, having recently helped the Panthers to a third straight premiership. The No.6 is off contract at the end of next season and is free to negotiate with rival clubs from November 1.
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